23 Things You Didn't Know About Usain Bolt
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Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt shot to global superstardom after his absolutely insane 100m finish and two other stupefying gold-medal performances at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and he currently stands as one of those rare living legends who transcends his sport. Much of his fame can be chalked up to his gold-medal count (seven, after also sweeping the sprints at the 2012 London Games and winning another gold in 100m in Rio) and the world records he holds (the 100m, 200m, and 4 x 100m relay), but don't forget about that famous pose.
Unsurprisingly, Bolt competes at what is likely to be his final Olympics as the favorite to three-peat in all his events -- and you probably shouldn't bet against him. Below, a closer look at the fastest man alive, who fittingly turns 30 on August 21st, the same day we bid adieu to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
1. He ate roughly 1,000 chicken nuggets in BeijingIn his 2013 memoir, Faster Than Lightning, Bolt talked about encountering authentic Chinese food for the first time at the Beijing Games. The short version: the dishes didn't agree with him. He found salvation in chicken nuggets, averaging about 100 nuggets per day during his 10 days there. Despite all the junk food, he still won three gold medals -- and a little later, an offer from Shutl for a lifetime's supply of his new favorite food -- so it shouldn't be shocking that he still falls back on nuggets when he's in a place with an unfamiliar cuisine.
2. His first trainer was his dogGrowing up in the small Jamaican village of Coxheath, a young Bolt used his dog as a warning system. "When I snuck out of the house [to play at my friend's] I would always take Brownie," he wrote in Faster Than Lightning. "The moment Pop's bike came rumbling home, Brownie's ears would prick up long before anyone else could hear a noise. As soon as that dog made to leave, I knew it was my cue to run [back home]. In a way, he was giving me a taste of what life would be like in the future: listen for the gun… Bang! Pop the blocks! Run!"
3. He caused an airport evacuationOn his way to winning the 100 meters in Rio, Bolt seemingly smiled for the camera as he reached the semifinal finish line. Definitely not smiling? Anyone at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport in the hours following the finals. The going explanation for why airport security evacuated two terminals while investigating whether shots had been fired at JFK is that fans watching Bolt's performance had celebrated his victory by clapping a little too exuberantly.
4. Segways hate himIt turns out you can take Bolt down on the track, but only if you're a Segway-riding cameraman, as seen at last year's World Athletics Championships. Paul Blart this photographer is not.
5. He can't go the distanceThe New Yorker recently surveyed a few experts to gauge whether Bolt could notch a good mile time. Opinions varied. Notably, a former college cross-country coach voted no, citing the Olympian's fast-twitch muscle fibers as a downside. More notably, Bolt's agent, Ricky Simms, emailed in to say, "Usain has never run a mile."
6. He has had a near-death experienceAs Bolt wrote in his autobiography, he and a couple friends were tooling around in his BMW M3 Coupe in April 2009 when the vehicle flipped three times across a Jamaican highway. "I gripped that steering wheel hard," Bolt wrote. The car landed upside down in a ditch. Somehow, he and his friends emerged largely unscathed, but the incident changed Bolt's view on life. "My eyes had been opened," he wrote, "I had God in my corner, and He had put me on this earth to run -- and faster than any athlete, ever."
7. He adopted a cheetahIn 2009, the man known as Lightning Bolt began sponsoring an adorable 3-month-old abandoned cheetah that he promptly named Lightning Bolt. He reportedly paid $13,700 to adopt the speedy lil' guy and have him raised at an animal orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. They're still good friends, but it should be noted that four-legged Lightning Bolts can beat two-legged ones in the 100m by more than three seconds.
9. His height is supposed to be a disadvantageAt 6-foot-5, you might think Bolt's height would help him run faster. But tall sprinters typically have trouble readjusting their centers of gravity when they come off the starting blocks in short races like the 100m. And there's another reason Bolt has never been the best starter. "Being 6-foot-5-inches tall means he shouldn't be able to accelerate at the speed he does given the length of his legs," former sprinter Craig Pickering explained to the BBC last year. "At the beginning of a race you want to take short steps in order to accelerate, [but Bolt is] so tall he can't do that."
Bolt's power and strides are advantageous, though, once he builds momentum. He routinely reaches a top speed around 28mph, and his long legs allow him to complete the 100m in 40 to 41 steps versus the 44 to 45 his opponents need. The disconnect of seeing Bolt lagging at the beginning of the race only to pull away from the pack near the end is part of the joy of watching him run.
10. But his height also allows him to dunkLike he did in the 2013 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. These are short steps.
11. He tried a SoCal accent in a Saturday Night Live sketchJust take the 2 North to the 134 East to the 210 West and then click this link and, whoa, you're there!
12. He drove a crappy car pretty nicely on TVIn 2009, when Jeremy Clarkson was still over at Top Gear, Bolt visited to chat about racing with untied laces, napping before wins, and eating all those nugs. The runner also participated as a "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car," channeling his inner Michael Schumacher and ripping a four-door Chevrolet around the BBC show's track for an impressive time of one minute and 46.5 seconds. (Watch here.)
13. He sometimes drives barefootWorld-class sprinters -- they're just like us! (If you do this, too, I guess.)
14. There will be a new movie about him
Bolt has already been the subject of documentaries for film and TV, but a new project centered on Rio is "coming soon." Titled I Am Bolt, the flick looks to shed more light on the Olympian's training and downtime.
15. He's obsessed with Call of DutyA dedicated player, Bolt told FHM a few years ago that he's unable to fall asleep without some COD action first. "If I lived in Europe, I'd shut the curtains, play Call of Duty on my PlayStation, 24/7, and never go out," he said in a 2012 Runner's World interview. He'll even daydream about the game before a race to calm his nerves.
16. He was born with scoliosisIn 2004, Bolt was belatedly diagnosed with scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. "When I was younger it wasn't really a problem," he told ESPN the Magazine in 2011. "But you grow and it gets worse. I don't have to worry about it as long as I work hard. The early part of my career, when we didn't really know much about it, it really hampered me because I got injured every year." Now, Bolt keeps injuries at bay with the help of a masseur, as well as dedication to regular core and back work-outs.
17. He's a money magnet, but not from winningsForbes clocks the runner's financial haul at around $32.5 million -- but more than 90% of that comes from endorsements. PUMA is reportedly his biggest backer, giving him about $10 million a year. The world's highest-paid track star, Bolt topped SportsPro's most marketable athlete list in 2011, a serious accomplishment for pro runners, who typically sustain their careers by nickel-and-diming off meets. "The figure we hear is that Bolt takes up 80 percent of all the money in track and field," US runner Nick Symmonds told Sports Illustrated in 2012. Makes sense.
18. He owes his success to a box lunch
It was a pastor at Bolt's primary school who first recognized the prodigy-to-be's quick speed, using a box lunch to coax him into participating in a school sports day dash. "A box lunch was The Real Deal, it came packed with juicy jerk chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, rice and peas," Bolt explained in his book. "The thought of a reward got me all excited, as did the thrill of stepping up in a big championship." After he won, he officially had the competitive bug. (Watch Gatorade's animated reenactment of the story here.)
19. He has been immortalized, fittingly, in boltsRoughly three years ago, the government of Trelawny Parish announced it had plans to honor Bolt with a monument of sorts near his hometown. As the Jamaica Gleaner reports, that hasn't happened yet -- and Bolt's aunt is pissed. (Maybe positive 2016 results will expedite things?) For the meantime, admire Diedel Klöver's statue of the runner and his pose, made entirely of bolts and screws.
22. He hates weedBolt admitted in his book to trying the devil's lettuce once, and that was enough. "I became tired almost from the second I'd drawn in the first lungful," he wrote, referring to a post-soccer game hangout sometime around his World Junior days. "I could tell that it wasn't the road for me to go down. First of all because Pops would have stabbed me in the neck if ever he'd caught me fooling around like Bob Marley, and secondly because I could tell the stuff would make me seriously lazy." That didn't stop some California dispensaries from naming product after him in 2012, though: "Usain Bolt OG," or U.B.O.G., was touted as a fast-acting treat.
23. He knows every word to "Sex on Fire"After winning at the London 2012 Games, Bolt surprised a packed PUMA Yard club by jumping in the DJ booth and kicking off a late-night celebration all his own. He has also played a reggae set in Paris and led a sing-along to Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire" in Munich. If he snatches up more hardware in Rio, keep your eyes peeled for repeat behavior.
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